Monday, July 16, 2018

Beef with Harvest Sauce (attempt #2) - A Transylvanian Cookbook

Today, using the roast from yesterday's post, I attempted the Harvest Sauce again.  It is from this book,

The Prince of Transylvania’s court cookbook 

From the 16th century 


You can find a copy of THE THIRD VERSION  here:
(this is an update from yesterday's post).

My first attempt, though tasty, was declared a failure because it never thickened.  You can read about here.

Original recipe (page 3), listed as recipe (2):


 If you want to cook with a harvest sauce, prepare the meat like I told you. Put parsley roots, (parsley) leaves and onions into it. After it’s cooked, add six or seven eggs, according to your needs. After you’re done, put the eggs into vinegar and start whipping it. Then pour the meat’s juices into it. Pour it onto the meat again, but don’t boil it; if you boil it, its size will suffer.

(Footnote on "suffer":  Meaning; It will curdle. Tempering the egg/vinegar and broth mixtures will result in a creamy sauce. Note that this sauce is used several times in the cookbook.)

My second redaction notes:

This time around, I have yellow onion AND I was able to get a small parsnip, which was recommended to use in place of the parsley root.  I expect this to be a more authentic taste, although my sad little parsley plant didn't have enough leaves to provide fresh parsley for this attempt.  I had to make do with dried parsley leaves.

Bits of parsnips
For the sauce

1 tablespoon peeled, finely chopped parsnip
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped a little less finely than the parsnip
1 tablespoon dried parsley
3 eggs
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/8 cup (or less) of beef juice (see note below)

The parsnip is already peeled
First I sauteed the onion, parsnip, and parsley in a little butter.  I cooked it gently, until the onion was translucent.  The smell was aromatic!  Then I set this mixture aside in a bowl for later use.

Cooked gently so as not to burn the dried leaves
Using the same pan, I put in a little water -- at most a few tablespoons -- and the slices of cold roast beef.  Heating the meat gently in this gave me warm beef and also flavored the water with the juices.  It was this liquid, warmed to steaming, that I called "beef juice."  

Cold roast beef slices getting warmed
While the beef was warming, I put the eggs into a bowl and whisked them vigorously, until the lumps and blobs were gone.  Then I added the white wine vinegar and whisked it thoroughly again.  

After the beef was removed to plates, I poured the beef juice into the egg mixture and whisked it vigorously again to temper the eggs.  Then I poured the whole mixture into the warm pan and began to cook it.  I whisked it the entire time, never letting it stop moving.  I found that I had to bump the heat up to about medium to get the sauce to thicken, but once it started, it thickened quickly!  I turned the heat off and let the sauce finish cooking from the residual heat of the pan.  Then I added the onion/parsnip mixture and stirred it in.

Getting thick!  Keep it moving!
The Verdict

The sauce was thick and creamy!  I spooned it over the beef and served it with a salad of nectarines and sorrel/spinach/lettuce, with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  (See the last line, below.)

Really, there is a lot of meat under that mountain of sauce!
The flavor?  Oh, the flavor!  It was excellent!  Hard to describe, really, but I will give it a try.  

No one flavor stood out.  I got hints of earthy tones, a little tingle of tart, a bit of a meaty flavor, and a richness (but not too rich).  It was somewhat like a Bearnaise sauce.  The mouthfeel was perfect because it was thick yet not clingy.  My guest taster said, "You can make this again, anytime!" and I agreed.  It is easy to make and it is very tasty.  It certainly brought out the flavor of the beef while complementing it, too.  An excellent pairing! 

Success!  The quantity was just right, too, as we ate every bit of the sauce. 

Credit where it is due:  Thanks to White on Rice Couple for their peach and sorrel salad recipe.  I used nectarines and a sorrel-and-salad-greens mix.  I loved the dressing!  You can find the recipe here.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Beef with Harvest Sauce (attempt #1) -- A Transylvanian Cookbook

The fun thing about knowing other historical cooks is that they find interesting recipes, teach you new techniques, give you intriguing challenges.  One in particular got me interested in this newly translated book:

The Prince of Transylvania’s court cookbook 

From the 16th century 


You can find a copy of it here:

I talked about it in my post on the 2018 Culinary Symposium -- he (G) told us stories about the book and had a recipe made up for us to taste.

I promised that I would give some of the recipes a try and put them in my blog, so here is my first attempt.

Original recipe (page 3):


If you want to cook with a harvest sauce, prepare the meat like I told you. Put parsley roots, (parsley) leaves and onions into it. After it’s cooked, add six or seven eggs, according to your needs. After you’re done, put the eggs into vinegar and start whipping it. Then pour the meat’s juices into it. Pour it onto the meat again, but don’t boil it; if you boil it, its size will suffer.

(Footnote on "suffer":  Meaning; It will curdle. Tempering the egg/vinegar and broth mixtures will result in a creamy sauce. Note that this sauce is used several times in the cookbook.)

My first redaction notes:

The first issue I had was getting parsley root.  My parsley plant was suffering from the heat and from critter raids, so its roots were really not worth the effort.  It did have enough leaves for me to use.  I checked with G to see what he has used.  He had tried it with parsley root but found there was no taste difference when using small, peeled parsnips.  I couldn't get any parsnips, so I chose to go ahead without either one.

Fresh parsley!
To my shock, the only onion I had was part of a purple onion.  No brown/yellow onion at all in my stash!  So I chose to use that.  I chopped it and sauteed it in butter until tender and a little browned.

Yum!  Onions!
My big conundrum was about the quantities of broth, eggs, and vinegar.  How much?  G had recommended white wine vinegar and the recipe says "six or seven eggs, according to your needs."  My needs were small -- I had a two pound beef roast to cook and I just didn't think I needed a lot of sauce.  I know my sauce was to come out thick, "silky," and creamy but I just wasn't sure.  So I took the attitude of any good redacting cook:  I picked some amounts, tried it, and hoped for the best.

For the roast:  

2 pound beef sirloin tip roast, which I sprinkled with seasoned salt.  I cooked it using the rotisserie burner on my propane grill until it registered an internal temperature of "rare."  It didn't drip much into the pan below but it did release juices when I sliced it.  I used the water in the drip pan as well as the juices in the sauce. After I saw how little juice there was, I decided to add some bouillon, too.

Getting ready to roast

Roasted to rare!

For the sauce:

1/3 cup chopped purple onion, sauteed in butter
1 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 eggs
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water + juice from roasting and slicing the beef
1 small spoonful of beef bouillon into the heated water + juice mixture

And the beef bouillon
To make the sauce:

The eggs were put into a bowl and whisked vigorously until I couldn't see any blobs of whites or yolk.  I wanted it to be as smooth as I could make it.  Then I put in the vinegar and whisked it some more until it was bubbly and smooth.

No lumps!  No blobs!
In the meantime, I heated the water and bouillon mixture in the same pan I cooked the onions in.  Then, to temper the egg mixture, I put several spoonfuls of the beef broth into it and whisked vigorously.  I poured that into the pan and whisked vigorously, while the whole mixture was over very low heat.

After it looked a little thicker, I added the parsley and onion.  It simmered for several minutes.  I noticed that if I stopped stirring it, it started to curdle -- that is, it looked like the eggs were getting scrambled!  But if I whisked it, the bits broke up and the sauce was reasonably smooth again.

Pretty colors!
Once I was convinced it wasn't going to get any thicker, I took it off the heat and put it into a serving container.

The Verdict

At the table, I spooned the sauce over the meat and tasted it.  The sauce was obviously too thin but the flavor was good!  A little salty, a little meaty, the parsley was a pleasant herbal undertaste, and the onion added a little zing.  I like it!  It paired well with the beef and we were all pleased to have it on our plates.  It was pretty, too:  the cream-colored sauce with flecks of green and chunks of purple contrasted nicely with the rare roasted beef.

Very rare and visually attractive
For my second attempt, I think I will use just a little beef flavoring (juices or broth) instead of the 1/2 cup of liquid I used this time.  I would like to taste more of the white wine vinegar, too, just like I tend to add a little extra lemon juice whenever I make hollandaise sauce.  I know, too, to keep the sauce moving when it is over the heat.

The first redaction made about 1 cup of sauce.  I think about half that quantity would have been right.

I have to classify this as a failure since my sauce did not turn out the way it was described to me.  But I will try it again and attempt to do better.  See tomorrow's post for Attempt #2.


I took the leftover sauce from this attempt and cooked it again, over a higher heat.  I stirred it continuously.  It thickened!  The flavor wasn't as exciting but it was still good.  Here is the result:

Thick enough to pile up

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Fish in a Fur Coat

After reading the Google translation of this recipe's title, I laughed, and so I knew I had to try it for my blog!

The original website is in Russian, and I just happened across it one day.  Even though I can't say it is historical, I thought it would be good foodie fun.

Original recipe, in Russian:

Google translation:

Baked fish in a fur coat

500 g lean fish fillets (pollock, cod, pink salmon) 
5 eggs
1/4 cup of crushed walnuts
3 tsp. lemon juice
salt, pepper, greens to taste.  
Missing the parsley

1. Cut the fish fillets into slices of 5-7 cm, sprinkle with lemon juice, salt and pepper, leave to marinate for 10-30 minutes. 

2. Choose a shape with high sides, lightly oiled with olive oil. 

3. Put the fish in it and put in the oven for 10 minutes. 

4. Whisk the eggs until the foam is formed, salt and pepper, if desired, add ground nuts and greens. With the mixture obtained, pour the fish.

5. Put the baking tray in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the omelet is baked until golden brown. During baking, an omelet can go up. In this case, you need to pierce it with a fork or knife.

My Notes

The recipe specifies "greens" and I chose dried parsley as my flavoring herb.

I preheated the oven to 325 degrees F, which seemed gentle enough for both eggs and fish.

I used a 9 inch diameter pie pan for my baking dish.  It also makes a good serving dish.

Salmon marinating in lemon juice, salt, and pepper

The fish marinated for 10 minutes.  I used less than 1/8 tsp of both salt and pepper.  Basically, I lightly sprinkled them over the fish.

After cooking 10 minutes
I did not salt or pepper the egg mixture.  The parsley amount was several good, hard shakes from the bottle.  The walnuts were chopped to a medium texture.

Whipping the egg mixture until foamy is important!

See the bubbles and the nuts?
It took 23 minutes to get the top golden brown.

The Verdict

Hot out of the oven!
The top was intriguing!  The walnuts were on top, poking through the egg coat, and the bubbles from the foam had set, and I think that is why the fish had a fur coat.  Fun to look at!

Top and inside views
The taste: The salmon flavor came through and the walnuts and parsley were a nice background enhancement, adding a depth of flavor.  The walnuts, in particular, added a pleasant, slightly bitter taste as well as a light crunch.  The eggs pulled all the flavors together.  I liked it and my guest taster, who adores salmon, said it was very good and would gladly have it again.

I felt that the eggs were slightly overcooked.  To correct this next time, I would try baking it at 350 degrees F for a shorter time.

Very nice!

Success!  I served it with sliced tomatoes that had been dressed with a few pieces of thinly sliced onion, ground pepper, and some balsamic vinegar, then chilled.  That was a good accompaniment.  We both think the Fish in a Fur Coat would be even better with a dollop of sour cream on top, or perhaps even some avocado on top or on the side.  I'll try that with the leftovers.

UPDATE:  Sour cream and avocados on the side are very good with the leftovers!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Culinary Symposium 2018!

UPDATE:  I mistakenly called foods that were served at two different meals, "leftovers."  They were fixed fresh for each meal!  No disrespect was intended as I loved the chance to try dishes I had missed before and I had the chance to sample the ones I loved again.  Thank you, cooks!


Oh boy!  I got to attend the tenth annual West Coast Culinary Symposium, put on by the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).  For details on their website, click here.  This year it was in Northern California, just north of San Francisco.  This is my third symposium and this one was just as lovely as the other two.

The Friday night dinner was potluck, so I cannot name all the good foods I ate, but I will give it a try.

I'll start with the purple cabbage salad, then go clockwise around to a chicken and pomegranate juice dish, then a Transylvanian dish with pork and a "Garlic Harvest Sauce."  After that was a sort of baked dumpling, then an onion salad, and a garbanzo bean salad.

To celebrate the Year of the Dog, someone brought an Asian pork dish with rice and pickled vegetables.  The tang of the vegetables perfectly complemented the fatty pork.

People were arriving and putting out new food all throughout the evening.  I didn't take pictures of everything I tried.  Some foods were purchased at stores and some were made at home.  It was all tasty.  I enjoyed meeting new people and reconnecting with ones I had met at the previous symposia.

One activity I participated in was a garum/liquamen tasting session.  This is the Roman Empire era condiment that was very popular.  I have posted several times about how I use it (do a site search on "Roman Empire").  Several of us brought what we use:  We had two that were made from salted fish parts, the way the Romans made it.  There were two store-bought fish sauces.  I brought my liquamen that was made from reduced grape juice and store-bought light-colored fish sauce.

The ones that others brought were saltier than mine, but I am not surprised because I am not someone who likes salty foods or salts her foods often and I could adjust the saltiness when I mixed the liquids.  The home made garums were good and I was convinced by the makers that I could make mine at home, too, without dealing with stinky, rotting fish in my house.  The store-bought one that everyone remarked on was labeled "Anchovy Juice" and it was excellent.  Still a bit salty for me but it had a rich, chicken-brothlike flavor that really danced on my taste buds.   It was pointed out that it was an expensive item as compared to regular fish sauces but could really be worth it as a flavor boost.

Saturday morning breakfast was some leftovers from the potluck (Hooray!  I got to taste some dishes I had missed before!) and some new items to try.

Starting near the top and going clockwise, flatbread with thickened yogurt, rice with chopped pistachios and raisins, an apricot preserved in syrup, someone's homemade cheese, and dried apricots.

A warm, tiny bagel; a garbanzo bean dish like a casserole; another preserved apricot.

Wheat berries with milk and honey, and an eggplant jam.  All quite good!

My first class was on a talk about the Transylvanian cookbook.  It was written in Hungarian and its translation was crowd-funded.  For fun, the instructor had Google translate the recipes list and got some very humorous results.  Note:  He says Google has improved since then and he doesn't get quite the silly translations any more.

He did show us that the recipes are not silly and gave us a cheese dish, called "túró cake" to try.  Click here for the recipe.  Look around that blog to see how to make the cheese.

It was tasty; light and savory, with dill.

The second class talked about various cookbooks -- the instructor is both a librarian and an historian with an amazing collection of cookbooks -- and from that I got some interesting online sources:  Early English Books Online is fun to look through.  It has 60,000 volumes of more than just cookbooks. also has a lot of cookbooks, among other things.  Medieval Cookery has a list of recipes, books, and other sources.

Next up, lunch!

Starting at the top and going clockwise, meatballs (I think made out of lamb), another garbanzo bean casserole, something with eggplant that was savory and garlicky, chard, a cheese pie sitting on flatbread, and yet another garbanzo bean casserole with meat.

Top left:  pickled parsnips (I think); a hummus with cinnamon, nuts, and herbs; couscous; and a thing I thought was a bean of some sort but tasted more like cooked dough.  All good!

During lunch, the keynote speaker gave her presentation on "The Food Preparation in the Royal Kitchens of Early Modern Spain."  It was good to see the techniques, the equipment, and the recipes.  I am now charged up to try to roast butter on a spit!

The next class was on Andalusian flatbreads from the 10th century.  (See Cariadoc's Miscellany) One recipe that was fun to watch cooking and to eat was like a stacked pancake, except all the layers were made together!  You make a sticky sourdough batter, put a layer on the hot pan and cook it a little while.  Then flip it.  While that side cooks, spread some batter on the first side.  Then flip, and spread more batter.  In other words, the whole stack cooks one side at a time, ending up with a thick stack of layers.  Then you rotate the stack on its side in the pan and make sure the edges are cooked.

To serve, punch holes into the entire stack and fill them with melted butter and honey.  Slice into wedges and serve.  The sourdough flavor really stood out and the butter and honey made it scrumptious.

Slicing to serve.  You can see the holes that were filled with butter and honey.

See the layers?
Another flatbread had the interesting technique of rolling it very thin (it had been kneaded a long time!), spreading on melted butter, then roll up like a jelly roll and twisting before using a rolling pin to get it flat again.  Once cooked, it had some flaky layers in it.  

Several individual breads, stacked together

The flaky layers!
The last class for the day was on sugar paste sculptures.  The instructor is an artist and had made a statue of a man leaning against a tree.  In the tree was a reservoir for wine, and a tube that exited from the man's side.  Once the wine was in the reservoir, you could pull out the arrow from the man's side and the wine would come out into your cup.  Very medieval!  We learned a lot about techniques for working with sugar paste.

Dinner, ah, dinner!  The recipes were taken from a 13th century Syrian cookbook that has recently been published in English as Scents and Flavors, edited and translated by Charles Perry.  In fact, all the recipes made by the cooks for our meals were from this book.  You can see the recipe list they used at the bottom of this post.

From the top, clockwise:  Some sort of chicken dish, date stuffed with an almond, chunky apple sauce, sweetened carrots, a fava bean dish, pickled cucumbers, and I-don't-know-what in the middle, but it was good.

From the top:  a different chicken dish, a turnip or parsnip dish, and a different carrot dish.  Again, all good!

The Culinary Symposium cooks did an excellent job redacting these recipes.  I hope I can do them at home some time.

After dinner, a couple showed us how they made a stag made of paper mache' that would "bleed" wine when pierced with a spear.  In medieval times, the stag would have been made of pastry dough.  It was truly impressive to see how they engineered it all.

Sunday morning started with breakfast, which is a good way to use up leftovers.

From the top, chard, date with almond, garbanzo bean casserole, tiny bagel, eggplant jam, and sweetened carrots.

Rice on the left, wheat berries on the right, both sprinkled with chopped pistachios and drizzled with honey.

My first class of the day was on kitchen gardens.  This was enlightening because I have a variety of culinary herbs in my garden but now I want more, and to make my garden more decorative!  I have ideas on how I could use certain hedges to provide branches for wattle fences, and more.  

The last class of the day was on lauzinaj, which is actually several types of sweets from the Middle East.  The "dry" lauzinaj are like nut brittles,  Both are made from almonds, sugar, and rose water.

This one is firm.

This one is easily broken.
The other type is a wrapped lauzinaj, which uses a super thin wrapper around a filling of chopped nuts (we had almonds and pistachios), sugar, and rose water.  It is then drizzled with untoasted sesame oil and a sugar syrup.

The challenge is making the thin wrappers.  You start with a kneaded dough, then put it in water and mash it.  This causes the wheat starch to come out, making the water look like milk.  After doing this for a while, all that is left of the dough is the gluten, but we want the starch.  

Some of the recipes used just water and starch.  Some added a beaten egg white.  Either way, you have a very thin batter that needs to be mixed regularly to keep the starch suspended.  Then you heat up your lightly greased pan, tilt it almost vertically, and pour the batter onto the pan.  Most batter goes into a bowl and what stays makes a paper-thin wrapper for the sweet.  We experimented with different levels of water and egg white, and managed to get wrappers so thin they were almost transparent.

Wheat starch in the jar.
Right after the batter was poured.

Cooking it to get rid of the white part

Rolled, on the left.  Filled and ready to roll on the right.
You can see the filling through the wrapper!  Yes, that thin!  In fact, with practice, some of the wrappers were like cellophane.  

This symposium was great fun, just like the other two I attended.  The people are nice and intriguing because their interests and expertise run far and wide through the culinary world.  I have described the classes I took but there were many others, which you can see on their web site.  I am not an SCA member but they have always welcomed me to these events.  If you have the opportunity to attend, I encourage you to do so. You will learn, eat, enjoy, and make friends.

Recipes for the meals, as taken from Scents and Flavors.  I recommend you buy the book!  (I don't profit from this recommendation.)  ISBN 978-1-4798-5628-2